Contractors are rejoicing about Congressman Pete Sessions' (R-TX) proposed amendment to the Defense Appropriations Act (H.R. 1), which would prevent the government from bringing certain outsourced jobs in-house regardless of whether or not the insourcing would result in savings for the taxpayer.
Sessions’ amendment states that “None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to implement any policy, directive, administrative regulation, circular, or action to convert from private sector to public sector performance any functions or positions that are not inherently governmental in nature.”
Contractors have whined about government “poaching” of contractor employees and have opposed the thought of an insourcing quota system. Instead, they are calling for a strategic process that looks at costs—as well as a full range of other factors—when deciding whether to hire public servants or contractor employees. I can’t agree more—a comprehensive review of work performed by contractors and the cost of this work is essential to saving taxpayer dollars and retaining control of federal policies, missions, projects, and programs. The Obama Administration has stated that there is an over-reliance on contractors and that a rebalancing must occur.
But now Congressman Sessions wants to throw that strategic approach out the window by inserting a provision into a super-sized appropriations bill that would force the Defense Department to continue to hire contractors even if savings can be realized by hiring a government employee. The White House is still refining the term "inherently governmental," and the Sessions provision could have a long-term impact on government costs and missions.
With all the talk about federal pay and hiring freezes, I hope that lawmakers realize that, other than contracts with the Department of Energy, the vast majority of federal contracts include an annual escalation clause, and therefore it might be more difficult to reign in spending if service contracts aren’t part of the equation. But I guess the real issue is whether talk about savings is genuine and more important than protecting the special interests that fuel campaigns.
Scott Amey is POGO's General Counsel.